Pine seed bugs

Our house gets infested with these Western Pine Seed Bugs every fall. Well, would you like to stay outside all day in an Ontario winter? (Yes? You must be from Alberta).

Pine seed bug
Pine seed bug

They are harmless but if you scare them, they emit a stink. Not too bad, a bit like a bruised apple. Also, being a true bug, they have a sharp, pointy beak that they can stick in you. After all, if it can pierce a pine seed, it can pierce your skin. It is normally folded under the head and body. Sort of like a permanently-attached drinking straw with built-in bottle opener.
So if they land on something, like me, or food, I give them a flick of the finger so they are gone before they get time to get scared. Imagine if something the size of a tree trunk suddenly hit you from behind, hard enough to send you flying many body-lengths1. Well, these guys recover mid-air and manage to fly to safety, at least until I manage to catch them again.

I think that this one was a bit miffed because it opened its wings and refolding them several times after that harsh treatment so I took the opportunity to take a few pictures.  Of course, I couldn’t get the depth of focus and the shutter speed both right in the few seconds before it stopped doing that, so the best picture is the first one, that I actually took last, and it never did it again.

Pine seed bug. wings open
Pine seed bug. wings open

1. The lesson to be learned from any such “many body-lengths” etc. that you see here or in the papers is not that some small creatures like fleas have super-powers, but that scaling doesn’t work like that. In this case, mass is proportional to cube of size so at tiny size, the force and energy to accelerate them is proportionately very much less than it is for us, so not much harm done. OK, a bit more complicated than that,… exoskeleton,… but the point stands, no superpowers.

Author: Eric Lawton

Eric is a natural philosopher living in rural Ontario

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